Oath: The New Coke Of The Ad Business

Apparently the brain trust at AOL worked months coming up with Oath, the name chosen to house nearly three dozen of AOL’s and Yahoo’s brands. They had planned to spring it on the world this summer, but it leaked and led to perhaps the funniest round of jokes to hit the ad industry since Rob Norman last spoke to a crowd. My favorite: "Oath sounds like the name of a band that would be opening for Black Sabbath at the Civic Center."

Back in the day when such things were important to me, guys would try to sell you on the quality of their ganja by labeling it with exotic names like Acapulco Gold or Maui Wowie (now there are over 800 brands in the rapidly growing pot industrial complex.). But nobody ever just ‘fessed up that it was really "just some local shit we grew between the rows of corn in New Jersey” — which it generally was.

It’s in that same spirit that I read this amazingly convoluted and fanciful explanation of what Oath is supposed to mean from one of those responsible for it:
"When you look at the diversity of this set of brands itself, and you look at the one thing that connects or binds all of these assets and the people who work on these assets, it is a set of values we share. It’s the way we choose to show up in the morning. It’s being deeply committed to building brands and not just aggregating content. It’s the commitment to making a human commitment.



“An oath is something that only a human being can make, and it’s really, really powerful—and also one of the most long-term and profound commitments a human being can make. We wanted to be anchored by that, not just in the name but in the people who work on all of our brands. So whether you’re deeply committing to building a news brand people love or a lifestyle brand or an advertising-technology brand, that’s the DNA we want in the go-forward entity. We felt like the brand [Oath] could bring that to life every day."

Now, PR folks are often said to be professional bullshitters, but I have to confess that in four decades or so of helping clients explain themselves or their thinking, I have yet to run across such nonsense anyplace else.

It’s a little frightening the amount of time, energy and money that went into coming up with Oath, and the best explanation we get is some vague notion of "It’s the commitment to making a human commitment." Something about "the people who work on all of our brands" and "DNA" and "a set of values we share."

This is like someone opened a package of the 11 Ps and everyone drank the Kool-Aid (or at least is holding it in their mouths indefinitely). While the fine folks who work at Verizon, AOL and Yahoo are undoubtedly passionate about their work, I am pretty sure they swear no oaths as they strap in for another daily sortie into the world of advertising.

It might make some small sense if these people were medical researchers and you could make a connection to the Hippocratic Oath, but this is nothing sacred. It's peddling online and mobile ads that most people find incredibly annoying, anyway.

I'm sure if you can convince people you are holier than thou, you can also fantasize that they might take "an oath" to work with you. But I think they'd rather have the rebates.

Isn't this remarkably like when you see a Super Bowl ad that is just terrible (or a Fox TV show, for that matter) and you try to imagine the months of review, discussion and earnest contemplation that went into green-lighting the spot? And you wonder why no one along the way stood up and said, "Are you kidding, this is the stupidest idea since New Coke."

On the other hand, it ain't tronc, Inc.

1 comment about "Oath: The New Coke Of The Ad Business".
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  1. John Grono from GAP Research, April 8, 2017 at 4:06 a.m.

    They should have used the Aussie brand-name expert ... 'Ken Oath.   (Hope you know Aussie slang).

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